What it’s like to wait four hours for a COVID test

What it’s like to wait four hours for a COVID test

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

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“Has anyone ever told you, you have a good nose for this?”

That’s what the man at StarMed’s Tuckaseegee Road location told me as he swabbed my nose.

With nervous laughter, I responded, “No, this is my first time.”

I’ve been careful. Grandma-wants-you-to-wear-a-sweater-when-it’s-warm-out-level careful, throughout the pandemic. I haven’t been sick since 2019, but when I woke up this past Friday morning with a sore throat, I thought, “Oh crap.”

  • A sore throat turned into a runny nose, which turned into a stuffy nose and a cough.

So Tuesday afternoon, I packed my fully charged laptop, a water bottle and a few cough drops, and headed to the StarMed testing site on Tuckaseegee Road.

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  • My boyfriend and I received our booster shots at the same location in December. We were boosted and on our way within 30 minutes then.
  • Testing moved at a different pace.

How it worked: When I arrived around 1:45pm, with the reference code I received that morning after registering for a test online, the soldiers directing traffic at StarMed said it would be a 90-minute to two-hour wait. They asked if that timeframe was OK, and for me, it was.

  • My car became my office for the afternoon, with the hotspot on my phone allowing me to write Wednesday’s newsletter. (For the record, my team reminded me I didn’t have to write the newsletter, and my health comes first.) I stubbornly insisted I could handle it, and it would help pass the time.
  • Two days after the winter storm swept through Charlotte, it wasn’t terribly cold. In fact, it was even a little toasty sitting in my car in the sun.
  • As hours ticked by, people got testy. Someone tried to cut the line, and was quickly yelled at, while the car in front of me decided to leave after sitting there for hours. Another person got out of their car and started shouting about the wait.

When 5:30pm rolled around, I called my boyfriend to let him know I’d be home late.

  • The testing site was scheduled to close at 6pm, and cars were lined up behind me.
  • “Will they send us away if we haven’t been tested by 6 pm?” I wondered as the sun disappeared.

At 6:03pm, I learned I have a good nose for COVID-19 testing. Why? Because it wasn’t a dry nose.

  • He took my sample and said they would text or email me with the results depending on which type of notification I opted for.
  • By 6:30pm I was home eating soup and watching cooking shows.

My thought bubble: While the experience took much longer than anticipated, I still felt fortunate. It is a luxury to be able to sit at a testing site for over four hours and be able to continue to work.

What do you do when you’re told it will be a two-hour wait, and it turns into over four hours?

  • Not everyone has transportation to get to a testing site.
  • Some lack childcare or jobs that make it feasible to take the time to get tested.
  • Imagine sitting in a car for four hours with a child.

As far as results go? I’m praying it’s just a cold, and waiting.

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